Nuggets of Wisdom

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Open Thread Tuesday: Gender And Toys


From MSN News:
Four-year-old Gavyn Boscio loves to cook and asked for an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. But when his big sister went to buy one, she discovered to her disappointment that it comes only in girly pink and purple, with girls — and only girls — on the box and in the commercials.

So McKenna Pope, an eighth-grader from Garfield, N.J., started an online petition asking Pawtucket, R.I.-based Hasbro to make the toy ovens in gender-neutral colors and feature boys on the package.

By Friday, the 13-year-old's petition had garnered more than 30,000 signatures in a little more than a week.

And celebrity chef Bobby Flay, who owned an Easy-Bake Oven as a boy, is among those weighing in on her side.

In a video McKenna made to accompany her petition on, Gavyn whips up a batch of cookies and tells his sister he wants a dinosaur and an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas. When she asks him why there are no boys in the commercial for Easy-Bake Ovens, he explains, "Because only girls play with it."

"Obviously, the way they're marketing this product is influencing what he thinks and the way that he acts," McKenna said in an interview. She said her little brother would probably be OK playing with a purple-and-pink oven by himself but would be too embarrassed to use it in front of his friends.
I empathize with this young girl's frustration. As a guy who loves to cook, I never understood why cooking toys were always marketed towards girls. In fact, I never understood why cooking was always considered a "girl's thing," especially since most top chefs tend to be dudes (Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck, Alton Brown, Guy Fieri).

So why the girly stigma towards cooking? Why not market Easy Bake ovens to both boys and girls? Why not sell blue and red ovens alongside pink and purple ones?

And of course, these questions invoke the debate about gender-segregated toys. Most people accept without question that some toys are for boys (action figures, cars, guns) while others are for girls (dolls, ponies, cooking). Barely anyone blinks twice at the stark contrast between the boys' aisle, with toys of a wide spectrum of color, and the girls' aisle, with mostly pink toys.

But why is this the case? Why can't girls enjoy toys with colors other than pink? Again, most of us accept without question that pink is the color for girls while blue is the color for boys. But over a hundred years ago, the exact opposite was true: pink was for boys and blue was for girls. So why are girls stuck with pink while boys are denied it? In fact, why have toys gender-segregated at all?

The argument usually barrels down to nature-vs-nurture. Many argue that toys like Easy Bake ovens are marketed towards girls because they are naturally-inclined to play with them, and the same goes with boys and their toys. But many dismiss this argument as bologna.

Even young kids realize that gender-segregated toys are bologna. Most girls have no problem playing with boys' toys and vice-versa, but it's social stigma that prevents them from openly admitting it, and it's not until they grow up that they open up about it. It's not considered weird for young women to like Transformers or Star Wars, and with the recent popularity of Bronies, the same can be said of young men who like My Little Pony. So why is it weird for young kids to like toys of the opposite gender? Why can't these toys be marketed to all genders?

Personally, as a libertarian, I feel that segregating toys by gender only enforces sexism, which is collectivism, and thus the enemy of individualism and liberty. I believe that children should be free to play with the toys that they want to play with, and that no one should dictate what they can and cannot play with.

But that's my opinion. I want to know what you all think? Should toys be gender-segregated? Or should they be maketed to all genders? Why or why not? Share your opinion in the comment section below.